Recognizing the Early Signs of Autism

May 05, 2023
Recognizing the Early Signs of Autism
One in 36 children is on the autism spectrum, but what symptoms emerge early in a child’s life that parents can watch for, so they can get timely treatment? Learn more here.

Getting to know your new baby as they grow is an amazing experience. Each child is different, and development is unique for everyone. 

New parents monitor their child’s development, from fine motor skills to speech. If they aren’t hitting certain developmental milestones or they exhibit certain behaviors, it can be concerning. Since autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 36 children, this condition is at the top of the mind for parents.

Dr. Amy Carnall and Dr. Cristina Sertway at Clarity Psychiatric Care, located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, provide diagnostic and counseling services for families, including treatment for children and adults on the autism spectrum

The facts on autism spectrum disorder

Though children are born with autism, parents and doctors don’t typically identify symptoms until toddlerhood and beyond. The primary difference between neurodivergent people (those on the ASD) and neurotypicals (those not on the autism spectrum) is how their brains process information. 

For example, a neurotypical child can usually transition from one activity to another fairly easily, while a neurodivergent child may have a greater need for daily routine. 

Some individuals on the autism spectrum are diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. They are high functioning and very intelligent but struggle with social situations. 

Autism’s early signs

These include:

1. Facial expressions

A child on the ASD has trouble reading and interpreting facial expressions — looks that convey surprise, sadness, or joy — or they might make facial expressions that aren’t appropriate to a situation. 

A parent may also notice that their baby isn’t smiling by six months. As they grow, a child on the ASD doesn’t like making sustained eye contact with others, even people they’re close with. 

2. Language

Delayed speech acquisition can accompany autism, as can a child’s inability to respond to a person speaking to them. As they get older, they may speak, but won’t talk often or appear interested in conversations.

Babies on the spectrum may not reach milestones, like making gestures or trying to talk by 12 months, saying single words by 16 months, or uttering two-word phrases by age two. 

3. Lack of interest vs “hyper” interests

A child with autism might show little to no interest when their parent points something out to them, like an animal or flower, but they can become highly focused on particular and sometimes unusual interests and topics, such as trains, a certain type of animal, or the weather. 

4. Social challenges

Parents may notice their child has difficulty making friends or maintaining friendships. Kids with ASD are often more rigid, attached to routine, and not enthusiastic about sharing. Spontaneity is a hallmark of imaginary play, and the inflexibility of the child who’s on the spectrum can be an obstacle. 

Their lack of interest in conversation also contributes to friendship struggles, and parents may also notice that their child simply prefers being alone. 

5. Sensory issues

A child on the autism spectrum often becomes overwhelmed in environments that feature loud noise or music, bright lights, and other jarring stimuli. The child may also bristle at being touched or hugged, be discriminating about what types of fabrics they want against their skin, or might want to wear clothes without tags in them. 

6. Movement

If a child tends to walk on their tip-toes or performs repetitive motions like rocking back and forth or hand flapping, they may be on the spectrum. They might also use objects repetitively, like opening and shutting doors or organizing toys in a certain way.

If you’ve observed some of these developmental events or behaviors, getting your child evaluated is the first step. If they’re diagnosed with ASD, it’s essential to get treatment for them as soon as possible. 

Helping children with autism and their families

Fortunately, society is now understanding that neurodivergent people may have senses, aptitudes, and talents that may stray from most other people’s, but these differences shouldn’t necessarily be considered negative. Despite the advances in our understanding of the autism spectrum, those affected by it still grapple with significant social and emotional challenges.

Our Clarity Psychiatric Care team provides advanced treatment and innovative therapeutic approaches for children on the ASD — and adults as well. They customize therapy to each person’s specific needs, no matter where they are on the autism spectrum. 

Families living with a member who is on the autism spectrum need expert and consistent support, and we’re here to provide it.

Call the Clarity Psychiatric Care office at 856-428-1260 to arrange an appointment today, or use our convenient online booking tool